Tennessee looks to lure more investment from China amid political backlash

Gov. Bill Lee speaks at a press conference in Nashville on Jan. 23, 2020. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

While China has become a favorite bogeyman on the campaign trail this year, Tennessee officials are still courting the country’s business.

A recorded message from Gov. Bill Lee was played at the North American Chinese Investment Summit in Beijing over the weekend, according to

The event was themed “Navigating the New Path of Outbound Investment for Chinese Enterprises in a VUCA World.” VUCA stands for volatile, uncertain, complex and ambiguous.

“We just want you to know that here in Tennessee we are open for business,” Lee said in the video, which officials send out to various economic development events around the world. “And we understand the value of partnership and relationship, especially with foreign owned companies.” 

“If you’re considering locating here in Tennessee, we would love to have you,” the governor said.

The event was organized by the Tennessee China Development Center.

Candidate blasting China for COVID-19 married to man convicted of mislabeling drugs … from China

Kingsport pharmacist Diana Harshbarger has been making a splash in Tennessee’s open 1st Congress District race by self-funding a series of television commercials. One of her latest spots attacks China for the coronavirus pandemic.

“President Trump is right,” she says in the ad. “Let’s put America first by holding China accountable, controlling our borders, and bringing medical manufacturing back to America.”

Left unsaid is that Harshbarger’s husband pleaded guilty to federal charges of distributing misbranded drugs from China in 2013.

As the Kingsport Times-News reported at the time, Bob Harshbarger acknowledged misbranding iron sucrose purchased from China as the kidney dialysis drug Venofer. Prosecutors said he bought the non-FDA approved substances from China because they were cheaper than the brand-name drug.

Bob and Diana Harshbarger owned companies sharing the same Kingsport address, and she took over as the registered agent for his American Inhalation Medication Specialists Inc. after he was sentenced to four years in prison. The company was dissolved in 2018.

New Hagerty ad takes aim at China

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty has a new TV ad out blasting China for the coronavirus pandemic.

Here’s a transcript of the spot:

Narrator: Communist China covered up the Wuhan virus, putting America at risk.

Conservative Bill Hagerty says we must hold China accountable.

Endorsed by President Trump, Bill Hagerty is tough on China.

Bill Hagerty: I’m Bill Hagerty, and I approve this message.

Hagerty releases ‘Blueprint to Bring Jobs Back to the U.S.’

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty speaks at Nashville event on Dec. 3, 2019. (Erik Schelzig, Tennessee Journal)

Republican U.S. Senate candidate Bill Hagerty has been named to President Donald Trump’s advisory board on re-opening the U.S. economy ravaged by the coronavirus pandemic. Hagerty has released what what he calls a “blueprint” to bring jobs to the U.S. from China.

Here’s the full release from the Hagerty campaign:

Nashville, TN — In the wake of the coronavirus pandemic, it has become clear that our dependency on China for key medical supplies and pharmaceutical drugs is a dangerous vulnerability for the United States. Today, Bill Hagerty released his latest plan to bring jobs back to the U.S. and secure our supply chains. 

“As the U.S. Ambassador to Japan, I have seen firsthand how dangerous the Communist Chinese regime can be. The coronavirus pandemic has only highlighted the threat China poses by underscoring the need to bring our supply chain back,” said Bill Hagerty. “We cannot rely on China’s state-owned companies to make so many of the products we need- including medical supplies and pharmaceutical drugs. As your next Senator, I will continue to support President Trump in standing up to the Chinese regime and bring jobs back to the U.S.”

In his plan, Hagerty notes that he will work alongside President Trump to: 

  • Make the corporate tax rate in the Tax Cuts and Jobs Act permanent and further lower the corporate tax rate to make us more cost-competitive with other countries, including China
  • Continue to eliminate and remove outdated, costly and often conflicting regulations
  • Increase jobs training and skills development
  • Balance a number of corporate tax options to further incentivize manufacturers to move their businesses back from China, including:
    • ​Allowing immediate expensing of manufacturing equipment and related investments
    • Providing a capital gains tax reduction that would release fresh capital, encourage investment in the United States, and bring back manufacturing jobs
    • Implementing payroll tax relief for a specified period for companies that bring jobs back from China.

Read the full plan here.


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